Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Taking the Broad View on Guns

President Obama wipes away a tear as he discusses the shooting in Newtown.
Up until now, Barack Obama's record on guns has been one of the biggest disappointments for his liberal supporters. In his first term he signed two laws on guns, one allowing people to take their guns into national parks, and one allowing people to take their guns on Amtrak trains. But now there are some hints that the administration may be open to some modest measures to reduce the easy availability of some of the deadliest means of killing large numbers of people at one time. In particular, we could see a renewal of some version of the assault weapons ban that was in place from 1994 to 2004. That law used a somewhat complicated flow chart of features to define an assault weapon, and also banned magazines that held more than ten rounds. A ban on high-capacity magazines may be the easiest thing to pass today, because it's not hard to define and they are almost impossible to justify for any purpose other than killing people. The easy argument against any new law, and one we'll...

Even America's Safest Places Need Better Gun Control

(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Flickr/Doug Kerr A garden in Newtown, Connecticut I f you ever have the chance, you should visit Newtown, Connecticut, a “picture-postcard place in New England, especially in the fall.” Or so urges Sperling ’s Best Places to Raise Your Family , which included the town among its 100 best spots to have kids, ranking it among the top ten where you could “keep your door unlocked.” The guide book for families looking for the ideal hometown also notes that Newtown is among its top ten of its 100 picks in terms of having a high percentage of households—44—that have an annual household income above $100,000 per year. No one could predict the tragedy that would befall this bucolic suburb of Danbury. The senseless murder of 20 six- and seven-year-old children and seven adults at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School has nothing to do with the fact that the town is scenic or expensive, but it is worth noting that a number of the horrendous shooting sprees that have taken place since the nation-...

While You Weren’t Looking, Michigan Turned Into Texas

Flickr/CedarBendDrive
The Michigan legislature’s lame duck session is only three weeks long, but the state house didn't need more than 18 hours to move the state sharply to the right. During a marathon session Thursday and Friday, the state house passed a variety of very conservative bills on issues from abortion to gun control to taxes. You can’t say they’re not efficient. The state, which favored Obama by 9 points and has long been home to a moderate-progressive movement, may now have a set of laws that puts it on America’s more conservative end. Perhaps most shocking for pro-choice advocates was the effort to restrict abortion rights—or, as Mother Jones put it, “ the abortion mega-bill. ” Assuming the governor signs the bill into law, women in Michigan will now have to buy separate insurance policies to cover abortion. Otherwise, even in cases of rape or miscarriage, the abortion will not be covered. Clinics that provide more than 120 abortions a year will now face significantly more stringent licensing...

Newtown: A Midnight Letter

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow) A young boy places a candle with others at the base of a flagpole outside Newtown High School before an interfaith vigil with President Barack Obama, Sunday, December 16, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut. A gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Friday and opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children. I t’s almost midnight and my seven-year-old is finally asleep. Tonight, she and I had the usual arguments about her taking a bath, about when she would go to bed; as it happens I’ve been a single dad the last several days, so we’ve argued more than usual. Two days ago was her Christmas play at school, at eight in the morning when her second-grade class sang, “All I Want for Christmas Is a Hippopotamus,” and it wasn’t until I was back in the car afterward that I heard on the radio about Sandy Hook. By the time I got to lunch there was nothing else on the news. It would be an overstatement to suggest that all of the restaurant had come to a...

A National Gun Policy: Here Is Where We Start.

Flickr/World Island Info
Flickr/Sari Dennise "Non-Violence" a k a "The Knotted Gun" by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, given to the United Nations by the government of Luxembourg in 1988 I n the wake of Friday’s gruesome tragedy, in which a presumably mentally ill shooter killed 26 Americans in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut—including 20 children between the ages of six and seven—it has never been more evident that our nation’s gun laws are in desperate need of reform.Thanks to years of relentless propaganda by the National Rifle Association (NRA) the American people no longer care much for the phrase "gun control," but they do support specific policy proposals in overwhelming numbers. For example, swing-state exit-polling data from the 2012 election indicates that 90 percent of gun owners support requiring background checks on all gun sales, including private sales. Republican pollster Frank Luntz has conducted additional surveys showing broad support for common-sense gun laws even among NRA members...

A History of Violence

In the wake of Friday's mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the latest in a year filled with massacres occuring at distressingly regular intervals, President Barack Obama called for "meaningful action" and said in a vigil in the small, quiet town on Sunday, "Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose? ... if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change." We here at the Prospect have thought that things have needed to change with American gun policy for years, and have many suggestions for how Congress and the White House should move forward on this issue. Here's our best coverage on guns and gun policy: A Tragedy Made in the USA , Steve Erickson Ten Arguments Gun Advocates Make, and Why They're Wrong , Paul Waldman How Should We Approach Gun Control? , Jamelle Bouie Yes, We Should Keep Talking about Our Gun Laws ,...

Gun Control, No Longer the Dems' Electoral Kryptonite

Lawrence Jackson / White House
The most notable thing to come out of President Obama’s speech last night—eulogizing the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut—was his unambiguous commitment to pursuing new gun regulations in the coming weeks. Granted, he didn’t use the word “gun,” but the implications were clear: If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try. In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such...

Ten Arguments Gun Advocates Make, and Why They're Wrong

Flickr/SpecialKRB
There has been yet another mass shooting, something that now seems to occur on a monthly basis. Every time another tragedy like this occurs, gun advocates make the same arguments about why we can't possibly do anything to restrict the weaponization of our culture. Here's a guide to what they'll be saying in the coming days: 1. Now isn't the time to talk about guns. We're going to hear this over and over, and not just from gun advocates; Jay Carney said it to White House reporters today. But if we're not going to talk about it now, when are we going to talk about it? After Sandy hit the East Coast, no one said, "Now isn't the time to talk about disaster preparedness; best leave that until it doesn't seem so urgent." When there's a terrorist attack, no one says, "Now isn't the time to talk about terrorism." Now is exactly the time. 2. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Maybe, but people with guns kill many, many more people than they would if they didn't have guns, and guns...

Obama, Crying

White House
While plenty of people criticized President Barack Obama’s speech yesterday—“I react not as a President, but as anybody else would—as a parent"—I was less bothered by what he said than I was relieved by what he did: choke up, take a minute to gather himself and, through the rest of the press conference, wipe back tears. Of course, I thought. Crying is the appropriate response to have to a day like this. Mia Farrow tweeted that it was the first time she’d seen an American president cry, and she might be right. It’s a significant step. In most of politics, and most of public life, we’ve been taught that emotion is the opposite of reason, that our feelings will cloud our judgment, and that the last thing an American president should ever do is trade swagger for sentiment. It was this view of emotion, of course, that helped justify the barring of women from public office. She just can’t handle it, was the refrain. The view of women as inherently more emotional than men is one feminists...

Why Obama Needs to Be More than a Parent Today

When an event like today's mass shooting in Newtown happens, there are words we hear over and over, like "unbelievable" and "unthinkable," as people struggle to find a way to describe the horror of what has occurred. But the truth is that what happened today isn't unthinkable at all. In fact, no one is surprised when such shootings happen, because something like it—perhaps not with quite as many killed, and perhaps with the victims not children—happens so often in America that we are barely surprised when the news brings another one. A few relevant facts: Six of the 12 most deadly shootings in our history have occurred within the past five years. The vast majority of the world's worst mass shootings have taken place in the United States. There have been 65 mass shootings since Representative Gabby Giffords was shot in 2009. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled that Illinois' ban on concealed handguns is unconstitutional. On Wednesday, a masked man entered a Portland, Oregon...

Rice Takes Herself Out

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Here is the lead of The New York Times' two-column front-page story today: Washington—President Obama knew before he picked up the phone on Thursday afternoon what Susan E. Rice, his ambassador to the United Nations, was calling about: she wanted to take herself out of the running for secretary of state and spare him a fight. Really ? Are you kidding? I have no inside sources, but this just not how things work. Does Times reporter Landler truly think that President Obama left this decision to Rice? More likely, the president and his political strategists and vote counters have been agonizing for weeks about whether a good dogfight with Republicans over Rice’s confirmation would be a net plus or a net minus. Ultimately, they decided it was better to get someone else. If Obama really did leave this to Rice herself, he is even more of a wuss than his worst detractors contend. Landler continues in the second paragraph: By acceding to Ms Rice’s request, which she had conveyed to White...

Hillary's Burden

Hillary Clinton is basking in the warm glow of public affection. Her approval ratings have risen steadily since the 2008 campaign ended, and now stand at around 65 percent. She has gotten high marks from members of both parties for her work as Secretary of State. So naturally, since she'll be stepping down soon, speculation has begun about whether she'll run for president. I could add one more uninformed guess about whether she'll run, but what's the point? Nobody knows right now, maybe not even Clinton herself. One thing's for sure: 2016 is her last chance. She'll be 69 on election day, as old as Reagan was when he was first elected. But she's smart enough to know that the current esteem she enjoys will be cut back severely the instant she becomes a candidate. As Nate Silver has detailed , over the years her approval ratings have gone up and down in direct relation to how close she has been to the battle of partisan politics. It's also tempting to forget, when looking at her today,...

Drinking the Deficit-Reduction Kool-Aid

It was the centerpiece of the president’s re-election campaign. Every time Republicans complained about trillion-dollar deficits, he and other Democrats would talk jobs. That’s what Americans care about—jobs with good wages. And that’s part of why Obama and the Democrats were victorious on Election Day. It seems forever ago, but it’s worth recalling that President Obama won re-election by more than 4 million votes, a million more than George W. Bush when he was re-elected—and an Electoral College majority of 332 to Romney’s 206, again larger than Bush’s electoral majority over Kerry in 2004 (286 to 251). The Democratic caucus in the Senate now has 55 members (up from 53), and Republicans have eight fewer seats in the House than before. So why, exactly, is Washington back to obsessing about budget deficits? Why is almost all the news coming out of our nation’s capital about whether the Democrats or Republicans have the best plan to reduce the budget deficit? Why are we back to...

The Case for "Four More Years"

AP Photo/Jerome Delay
AP Photo/Jerome Delay President Barack Obama and wife Michelle hold hands with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill following Obama's victory speech to supporters. I t’s the policy idea that just won’t die, and seems to reanimate whenever legislators have run out of substantive issues to push. Case in point: Last week’s appallingly thin op-ed by 2016 hopeful Bobby Jindal , which argues that “structural reforms” are needed to get the United States back on the right path, and suggests term limits as one of, well, two structural reforms that would do the trick (the other is a multi-part budget plan). Term limits for Congress, whatever its utility in chasing after the Republican nomination for president, is still an absolutely terrible idea on the merits. To begin with, the idea that Congress is in desperate need of new blood is ridiculous. As it happens, we’ve been in a cycle of considerable change for some time now, with “wave” elections strongly favoring one party in 2006, 2008,...

Joe Lieberman Does Not Deserve Your Sympathy

Wikipedia
Joe Lieberman left the Senate for the last time today, and the Washington Post ‘s Dana Milbank was there to witness his lonely departure. For Milbank, Senate Democrats’ clear disdain for the Connecticut senator is further evidence of the polarization and incivility that mark modern Washington: A few more senators arrived during the 20-minute speech, but even by the end Lieberman was very much alone — which is how it has been for much of his 24-year tenure. He tried to push back against the mindless partisanship that developed in the chamber, and he paid dearly for it. Lieberman was excommunicated by his party (he won as an independent in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary) and retired this year rather than face probable defeat. Yet he received little love from the Republicans, either, because despite his apostasies on key issues — the Iraq war, above all — he remained a fairly reliable vote for the Democrats. This is fantasy history. The actual reason Lieberman was disliked by...

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